September 12, 2002, 12:00 AM — Besides the presence of Microsoft at the recent LinuxWorld Expo, the
most unexpected sight was that of Sun Microsystem's Chairman Scot
McNealy actually working his own booth. As described by a Sun product
manager, "this just shows how committed we are to Linux as a strategic
platform." When I then asked to have that strategy explained I received
a message that can best be described as inconsistent.
Sun is attacking the market on the desktop with a new version of
StarOffice, operating systems components with an excellent port of Gnome
tools, and developers with a new LAMP bundle (Linux, Apache, MySQL and
PHP). Yes, Sun does have a significant commitment to Linux ... but is it
the right solution set? The jury will remain out for some time to come.
I have to believe that the potential erosion Linux represents to its
Solaris and proprietary hardware sales motivates Sun's efforts. The Sun
logic is by embracing open source developers and administrators with Sun
labeled Linux solutions, this will some how translate to larger system
Solaris enterprise sales. This logic could be seriously flawed and could
backfire if not properly executed. Two cases in point are StarOffice and
The latest version of StarOffice is vastly improved but is still playing
catch up with Microsoft Office XP. The sea change that a very low priced
alternative to Office will transform desktops does not appear to be
taking place. The company realizes virtually no economic benefit from
this office suite, but it does have bragging rights for the
anti-Microsoft crowd. Is this a justified strategy?
The LAMP initiative offers an environment for small applications. It is
interesting to note that Sun is now positioning this bundle as
entry-level environment and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) for complex
and distributed application. The two environments are largely discrete
and interoperability could be a real issue. While Linux developers might
eagerly use the open source LAMP bundle, the lack of a clearly defined
road map to J2EE will hurt application integration.
Sun Solaris is industrial strength UNIX at its best. The recent
initiatives seem to pull attention away from Sun's core strengths. No
high tech company can afford to lose sight of its core. Keep you eye on
Sun as this story evolves.